"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bracketology: Jan 30

This week's bracket was especially difficult, and really got tough starting around the 6-line. Mainly because most of the teams I wanted to consider have been losing lately. Most of them multiple times. And as I went further down the bracket, the worse the teams looked. Most of the teams near the bubble don't really deserve to be anywhere close to it, but the expanded field has made this a reality. Teams like Iowa State and Colorado State both in the field essentially on the basis of one good win. Teams like Notre Dame and UCF warranting consideration despite having as many sub-100 losses as they do top-50 wins. Anyway...let's look at the bracket:


The Big Ten has the most bids with 8, and again the Big East is on their heels with 7. Northwestern and Cincinnati dropped out of the field, respectively. Behind them, the SEC has 6, the Big 12 and A-10 each have 5, the ACC and Mountain West have 4 each, the West Coast has 3, and C-USA, the Pac-12, and the Missouri Valley have 2 each.

The last four byes went to Purdue, Xavier, BYU, and Dayton. The last four teams in the field were St. Louis, Iowa State, Colorado State, and Arkansas. The lowest RPI team to earn an at-large bid was #66 Arkansas while the lowest KenPom team in was #107 Colorado State.

The first four teams out were Notre Dame, NC State, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. The next four out were UCF, Texas, Northwestern, and Cincinnati. The highest snubbed RPI team was #48 Texas while the highest snubbed KenPom team was also Texas, rated #20.

From a Marquette perspective, my biggest fear would be overlooking a solid Davidson team. I feel that both Memphis and BYU are dangerous but beatable, and wouldn't fear either Duke or Illinois, though I'd expect a tough game. What surprised me the most was simply that MU has played their way up to the 3-line. But with virtually everyone crashing around them while Buzz Williams' team continues to simply win, it's hard not to have them up there. The field really starts to fall off in a hurry.

Buzz Williams for Big East Coach of the Year? Without a doubt in the first half

The Big East conference season is only half over, but if it ended today Buzz Williams should be your runaway winner of the Big East Coach of the Year award for 2012. His team sits in 2nd place with a top 15 national ranking despite a season ending injury to his starting center, Chris Otule. The team's only two losses were on the road to league leading Syracuse and a heartbreaking loss at Georgetown.

The only other coaches with an outside shot might be Mike Brey, who has taken a Notre Dame team thought to be undermanned to 3rd in the standings. South Florida's Stan Heath has also raised a few eyebrows with the performance of his Bulls, but do they have the staying power to remain in the upper half of the league the balance of the season?

Offensively Buzz has the team running very efficiently. The Warriors currently are in the top 5 in the conference for Free Throw Attempts per game (3rd), Turnover % (5th), FG % (5th), Effective FG % (2nd), Assists per FG made (1st), scoring offense (2nd), Scoring margin (2nd), 3-PT FG % (1st), Assists (1st), Turnover margin (4th), Assist to Turnover ratio (3rd), and 3-Pt FGs made (4th).

Though his teams can sometimes get off to agonizing slow starts, Buzz hasn't panicked this season. The team has maintained their composure and found a way to comeback in virtually every one of their slow starts (sans Vanderbilt). He has successfully manipulated his lineup to incorporate talent sets that seem to fit the situation without disruption to the team or flow of the game. Specifically the use of Vander Blue, Todd Mayo and Junior Cadougan to maximize efficiency on offense and defense has been key of late.

MU has nine games to go with what looks like five sure fire wins and four others that are winnable, but will be tossups. Is 14-4 realistic? The recent injury to Davante Gardner will force Buzz to be even more creative during the second half stretch if they hope to hit that record. MU finishing with 14-4 would virtually guarantee Buzz as Big East Coach of the Year for 2012.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Yarou and Nova’s offensive rebounding makes it toughest challenge of 8-game stretch; MU tries to break 4-game losing streak at Nova

Three down and five to go in the 8-game stretch of winnable games that gives MU the inside track on heading into UConn Feb. 18 at least in 2nd place in the Big East. Perhaps more importantly, the 0.71 points allowed per trip vs. South Florida culminated a 6-game stretch of excellent defense that put in MU in the top 20 of all defensive teams, which Rob pointed out Wednesday is the average for an Elite 8 team.

But can the much improved defense beat a team that is great at the one thing MU has been unable to stop since Otule's injury - offensive rebounding? While Maalik Wayns is the 15th best player in the league statistically, it is 6-foot-10 Mouphtaou Yarou (33rd best) and his back-up 6-foot-9 freshman Markus Kennedy have helped make Nova the 23rd best offensive rebounding team in the country and 11th best among BCS teams according to Pomeroy.

While MU is clearly the better team Saturday (11 a.m. tip-off), MU has been the much better team in all three games against teams ranked 23rd or higher in offensive rebounding (Nova first game, Pitt and Washington) and has barely survived all three games. This is the first time we go up against a dominant offensive rebounding team ON THE ROAD. MU seems to either be unable to keep these teams off the glass (45.7% offensive rebounding first game vs. Nova), or have to crash the defensive boards so hard that the offense can't get going in transition (vs. Pitt).

Since Chris Otule was injured MU has plunged to 279th in the country (35.4% offensive rebounding allowed). Put that together with Nova's offensive rebounding, and Nova projects to grab a scary 41.9% of their own misses. (You multiply the deviances of the offense and defense from the national average then multiply that figure back by the national average if anyone cares).

Vil OffRMar DefR 
Natl Ave32.532.5Proj below

In Milwaukee, Nova only fell short by 4 points because they hit only 3 of 17 three-pointers. With the average 8-point swing from one home court to another, that gives Nova a 4-point edge, while Pomeroy projects a 4-point Marquette win.

The good news (again, pointed out by Rob Wednesday) is that MU is coming off its best defensive performance ever in Big East play under Buzz. As the chart above shows, the 0.71 adjusted points allowed per trip against South Florida was even better than the incredible defense played against Wisconsin (0.77) and UW-Green Bay (0.79), though not as good as the manhandling of Mt. St. Mary’s to start the season (an 0.59 even after adjusting for Mt. St. Mary’s well below average offense).

If MU can win this one, then we project to win three of the next four – and the projected standings heading into the February 18 game at UConn would be:

Syracuse 12-2
Marquette 10-3
Georgetown 9-4
West Virginia 9-5
Cincinnati 8-5

It gets tougher after that, but if the defense keeps playing well, the final few weeks could be fun. Here is the game-by-game defense for the season.

OpponentPtAllPossRaw DAdj D
Mt. St. Mary's37720.510.590
Norfolk St.68840.810.826
Norfolk St.57640.890.909
w/ Otule59720.820.840
UW Green Bay61770.790.845
N. Colorado72740.970.940
Louisiana St.67651.031.025
1st 8 no Otule69700.980.942
St. John's64700.910.917
South Florida47640.730.713
Last 663670.930.872

For perspective, below are the Top 5 defenses in the land. With Otule, MUs 0.840 was better than any defense except Ohio State and Wisconsin. The first 8 games adjusting to Otule's absense, MU was only as good defensively as the 59th best defense (Indiana). In the past 6 games, MU's defense has been as good as the 8th best in the land - UNC.

DefensesAdj D
1. Ohio State0.777
2. Wisconsin0.815
3. Kansas (same as MU with Otule)0.841
4. Virginia0.841
5. Florida St.0.856
8. UNC (same as MU last 6 games)0.872
20. Marquette0.900
59. Indiana (same as MU 1st 8 without Otule)0.940

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Defense and Projections

Last year, in early January, I wrote an article wondering if Defense was Marquette's Achilles Heel.  It's worth re-reading, but here is an update.

Teams that are elite have good defenses.  In particular, over the past five years, here are the average defensive rankings of teams at each level of the NCAA tourney.

  • Won their first game (#34)
  • Sweet Sixteen (#26)
  • Elite Eight (#20)
  • Final Four (#17)
It was the exception rather than the norm for a team like Marquette (defensive rank of #61) to make the Sweet Sixteen last year.  In fact, over the last five years, only twelve teams with a defensive rank worse than 50 (15% of teams) make the Sweet Sixteen.  Only three teams with a defensive rank worse than 50 made the Elite Eight (8%), and one of them was VCU!  It happens, but the odds are against you.  This was a giant concern for Buzz's teams, which had never been better than a defensive rank of 50 over three years.  Tangent - it was a total freak that the 2003 team (defensive rank of #101) made the Final Four... helps that they were #1 offensively.

Not all aspects of defense are the same.  In particular, defensive eFG% is twice as important as forcing turnovers, three times as important as preventing offensive rebounds, and fourteen times more important than not letting your opponent get to the free throw line.  Marquette's defense under Buzz has been weakest in the most important area (eFG%) and strongest in the least important area (free throw rate)

Last night's result against South Florida was the best Big East defensive game in Buzz's tenure.  Marquette held the Bulls to 0.71 ppp on 40% eFG and a turnover rate of 37%.  More importantly, although this was a great result defensively, it wasn't a particularly unique result this year.  Here's where things currently stand defensively for Marquette, in comparison to the last three years.  

Marquette has turned their defense into the #24 overall unit.  In other words, MU's defense is playing somewhere between the average Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight defense for the first time under Buzz.  There's also a marked difference in the defensive priorities, with our strengths now in the two most important aspects of defense.  Note that at this time last year, Marquette's defense was ranked #70.  Finally, as Pudner wrote a week ago, the defense is ranked higher than the offense for the first time under Buzz.  

Should expectations be high for the remainder of the season?  Consider this, according to the Pomeroy projections (subscription required - but seriously, it's the best value on the Internets).
  • Marquette has about a 93% chance of finishing with 11+ wins (5-5 down the stretch)
  • About an 80% of finishing with 12+ wins (6-4)
  • ~50% of finishing with 13+ wins
  • and for you real optimists, about a 20% of finishing with 14 wins or more
A winnable road opportunity awaits this weekend at Villanova.  Saturday's game will prove an additional marker of how good Marquette can be this season, both overall and defensively.  Here's to continued defensive success for the rest of the season and beyond.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

MU, Gtown, Syracuse and Seton Hall claim 14 of top 25 BE players as MU goes for sole possession of 3rd place tonight

No one would have predicted that Marquette and South Florida would be playing for sole possession of 3rd place in the Big East tonight. Marquette enters the Bradley Center tonight for a 7 p.m. start with three of the Top 25 players in the conference this year, a feat matched by Syracuse, Georgetown and Seton Hall that leaves the other 12 teams in the conference with only 11 between them.

Kevin Jones nudges out Jae Crowder in a two-way race for conference MVP in the Total Value Top 25 listed below, but if the Mountaineers are to stay near the top of the standings this year then Jones will have to carry them by himself as their next best two players barely crack the conference Top 50. West Virginia's Truck Bryant (39th) and freshman point guard Jaborie Hinds (47th) are having very good but not dominant seasons. The Top 25 most valuable players to date:

RnkTop 25 Big East PlayersTeamHtOffenseDefenseTotal
1Kevin JonesWest Virginia6-foot-88.02-2.2010.21
2Jae CrowderMarquette6-foot-65.44-3.849.28
3Jeremy LambConnecticut6-foot-56.02-0.936.95
4Jason ClarkGeorgetown6-foot-24.29-2.376.66
5Dion WaitersSyracuse6-foot-43.74-2.616.36
6Hollis ThompsonGeorgetown6-foot-85.18-1.106.28
7Fuquan EdwinSeton Hall6-foot-62.83-3.426.25
8Jordan TheodoreSeton Hall6-foot-04.90-0.985.88
9Shabazz NapierConnecticut6-foot-04.71-1.075.78
10Herb PopeSeton Hall6-foot-82.60-3.085.69
11Kris JosephSyracuse6-foot-74.03-1.655.68
12Gorgui DiengLouisville6-foot-102.44-3.215.65
13Sean KilpatrickCincinnati6-foot-43.98-1.165.14
14Jack CooleyNotre Dame6-foot-93.60-1.475.07
15Maalik WaynsVillanova6-foot-24.920.004.92
16Otto PorterGeorgetown6-foot-82.27-2.604.87
17Davante GardnerMarquette6-foot-83.47-1.334.80
18Kyle KuricLouisville6-foot-43.40-1.244.64
19James SoutherlandSyracuse6-foot-82.89-1.614.50
20Ashton GibbsPittsburgh6-foot-24.410.004.41
21Bryce CottonProvidence6-foot-14.360.004.36
22Henry SimsGeorgetown6-foot-102.43-1.844.27
23Jerian GrantNotre Dame6-foot-54.16-0.034.18
24Darius Johnson-OdomMarquette6-foot-23.59-0.594.18
25Brandon TricheSyracuse6-foot-43.32-0.844.17

Quick Explanation – then the Top 100 players by team:
Total Value is the measurement of the percentage of points a player averages adding to his team’s score with offense and subtracting from the opponents' score with defense on a given night. The calculation that Crowder adds 5.44% to Marquette’s score and takes 3.84% of the opponents points away with defense (Total Value 9.28%) indicates that Marquette would be projected to drop from a 24-7 team with Crowder to a 16-15 team without him if going by results to date and Pomeroy’s projections for the rest of the year. The eight games that switch from wins to losses if Crowder is not playing are; Washington, 2nd Norfolk State, Villanova and Pitt as well as projected scores for Seton Hall, Notre Dame, and 2nd Villanova and Georgetown games. Only Kevin Jones is more valuable in the Big East, and noone else is close.

Thankfully the engineer just finished the program to run Total Value this week, so I am no longer risking mistakes on long spreadsheets as I pinpoint the following three precise calculations:

1. Offensive Value Add was first covered by Luke Winn at Sports Illustrated, then picked up on by ESPN, and finally adopted as a building block for other calculations including a recent one from Basketball Prospectus.

2. The Defensive Value Subtract is equally important, and has been perfected in recent months by an engineer building my program, but is not nearly as easily grasped and I don't plan to detail the formulas further. However, while the overall team Defensive Value Subtracts are very accurate, you must use common sense to adjust for on-ball defense and rotations, within the team up to 1% plus or minus per player. For example, if you adjusted DJOs defense by 1% for his much improved on-ball defense, and subtracted 1% from Gardner's defensive rating for slow rotations, you end up with DJO as the 13th best player in the Big East and Davante Gardner as the 28th best.

3. The NBA Predictor is an adjustment I am finalizing to measure not the impact on the college team, but how much impact the player is likely to have if taken at the next level, as not all great college players can translate their game to the pros but others do surprisingly well. However, this third part of the program is intended for a much smaller audience so won’t appear here. There are NBA indicators with DJO that make him a potential first round pick, even though his high turnovers and low steals hold his rating back at the college level.

The first two factors give a very accurate account of every player in the league.

While certainly Syracuse has the inside track on the championship, in the end they do not appear as dominant to me as Ohio State, Kentucky or even UNC and Duke by the end of the year. If Marquette can win at Villanova Saturday, a toss-up game due to Nova’s strong offensive rebounding that often gives MU trouble, I believe we can legitimately consider the possibility that MU could win the Big East regular season title in a year in which the conference is down from the past three years.

Here are the Top 100 players grouped by team, starting with tonight’s opponent South Florida. I also list the projected final conference record based on Pomeroy.

RnkMarquette (Proj 12-6)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
2Jae Crowder6-foot-65.44-3.849.28
17Davante Gardner6-foot-83.47-1.334.80
24Darius Johnson-Odom6-foot-23.59-0.594.18
51Jamil Wilson6-foot-71.38-0.672.05
55Vander Blue6-foot-40.53-1.441.97
61Todd Mayo6-foot-31.900.001.90
74Junior Cadougan6-foot-10.72-0.661.37
85Chris Otule6-foot-110.00-0.860.86
91Derrick Wilson6-foot-00.10-0.370.47
94Jamail Jones6-foot-60.00-0.360.36

RnkSouth Florida (Proj 9-9)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
29Toarlyn Fitzpatrick6-foot-81.74-2.003.74
34Ron Anderson6-foot-82.83-0.503.33
42Hugh Robertson6-foot-61.78-0.812.59
76Augustus Gilchrist6-foot-100.81-0.441.25
83Shaun Noriega6-foot-40.950.000.95
84Jawanza Poland6-foot-40.64-0.280.92
95LaVonte Dority6-foot-10.350.000.35

RnkCincinnati (Proj 11-7)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
13Sean Kilpatrick6-foot-43.98-1.165.14
31Cashmere Wright6-foot-01.89-1.593.48
40Jaquon Parker6-foot-32.48-0.272.75
41Yancy Gates6-foot-91.43-1.242.66
45Dion Dixon6-foot-31.72-0.722.44
46Justin Jackson6-foot-80.59-1.782.37
93Jermaine Sanders6-foot-50.360.000.36

RnkConnecticut (Proj 10-8)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
3Jeremy Lamb6-foot-56.02-0.936.95
9Shabazz Napier6-foot-04.71-1.075.78
50Tyler Olander6-foot-91.68-0.372.06
60Ryan Boatright6-foot-01.82-0.091.91
73Niels Giffey6-foot-71.30-0.081.38
80Alex Oriakhi6-foot-90.74-0.321.07

RnkDePaul (Proj 4-14)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
36Brandon Young6-foot-
48Jeremiah Kelly6-foot-
67Krys Faber6-foot-101.30-0.311.61
86Cleveland Melvin6-foot-80.44-0.370.81

RnkGeorgetown (Proj 13-5)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
4Jason Clark6-foot-24.29-2.376.66
6Hollis Thompson6-foot-85.18-1.106.28
16Otto Porter6-foot-82.27-2.604.87
22Henry Sims6-foot-102.43-1.844.27
53Nate Lubick6-foot-81.16-0.842.00
58Markel Starks6-foot-21.940.001.94
88Mikael Hopkins6-foot-90.47-0.030.49

RnkLouisville (Proj 9-9)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
12Gorgui Dieng6-foot-102.44-3.215.65
18Kyle Kuric6-foot-43.40-1.244.64
28Chris Smith6-foot-23.36-0.413.77
38Russ Smith6-foot-00.23-2.672.90
52Chane Behanan6-foot-70.37-1.672.04
71Peyton Siva5-foot-110.00-1.451.45
87Rakeem Buckles6-foot-70.00-0.520.52
98Elisha Justice5-foot-100.00-0.270.27

RnkNotre Dame (Proj 9-9)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
14Jack Cooley6-foot-93.60-1.475.07
23Jerian Grant6-foot-54.16-0.034.18
69Eric Atkins6-foot-11.530.001.53
79Scott Martin6-foot-80.00-1.131.13
92Joey Brooks6-foot-60.450.000.45

RnkPitt (Projected 4-14)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
20Ashton Gibbs6-foot-24.410.004.41
43Nasir Robinson6-foot-52.510.002.51
44Lamar Patterson6-foot-52.460.002.46
56Talib Zanna6-foot-91.970.001.97
57Dante Taylor6-foot-91.77-0.181.95
66Travon Woodall5-foot-111.680.001.68
81Khem Birch6-foot-90.53-0.501.03
89J.J. Moore6-foot-60.490.000.49

RnkProvidence (Proj 5-13)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
21Bryce Cotton6-foot-14.360.004.36
72Bilal Dixon6-foot-90.77-0.671.44
75Vincent Council6-foot-21.300.001.30
97Ron Giplaye6-foot-60.00-0.310.31
99Gerard Coleman6-foot-

RnkRutgers (Proj 8-10)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
26Dane Miller6-foot-60.94-2.933.87
59Mike Poole6-foot-50.05-1.861.91
62Myles Mack5-foot-90.77-1.071.83
63Gilvydas Biruta6-foot-80.50-1.251.75
82Jerome Seagears6-foot-10.990.000.99
100Austin Johnson6-foot-

RnkSeton Hall (Proj 11-7)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
7Fuquan Edwin6-foot-62.83-3.426.25
8Jordan Theodore6-foot-04.90-0.985.88
10Herb Pope6-foot-82.60-3.085.69
49Patrik Auda6-foot-91.81-0.272.08

RnkSt. John's (Proj 4-14)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
35D'Angelo Harrison6-foot-32.72-0.523.25
70Sir'Dominic Pointer6-foot-60.00-1.481.48
90Amir Garrett6-foot-60.00-0.470.47

RnkSyracuse (Proj 15-3)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
5Dion Waiters6-foot-43.74-2.616.36
11Kris Joseph6-foot-74.03-1.655.68
19James Southerland6-foot-82.89-1.614.50
25Brandon Triche6-foot-43.32-0.844.17
27C.J. Fair6-foot-82.36-1.483.84
30Scoop Jardine6-foot-22.30-1.313.61
32Fab Melo7-foot-01.24-2.193.43
54Baye Moussa Keita6-foot-101.29-0.701.98
64Michael Carter-Williams6-foot-50.63-1.061.70
68Rakeem Christmas6-foot-90.67-0.931.60

RnkVillanova (Proj 7-11)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
15Maalik Wayns6-foot-24.920.004.92
33Mouphtaou Yarou6-foot-102.67-0.753.43
37Dominic Cheek6-foot-
77James Bell6-foot-
96Achraf Yacoubou6-foot-40.330.000.33

RnkWest Virginia (Proj 13-5)HtOffenseDefenseTotal
1Kevin Jones6-foot-88.02-2.2010.21
39Darryl Bryant6-foot-22.850.002.85
47Jabarie Hinds5-foot-111.42-0.842.26
65Deniz Kilicli6-foot-90.83-0.861.69
78Aaron Brown6-foot-

Monday, January 23, 2012

Back and Forth: 5-2 Edition

Rob:  Good morning. How does 5-2 go with your coffee?

Tim:  Not bad.  Good showing vs. Providence.  After holding PC to 41% eFG%, #MUBB is holding the opposition to an eFG% of 45.5% overall, their best since Pomeroy began tracking in '03.  And, the turnover rate for #MUBB opponents is a whopping 24.5%.

Rob:  You know that I care way more about the eFG% defense.  It's a great sign, especially since I believe that the ability to force turnovers goes down as the season goes on and you face better opponents*.
*note: not supported by analysis

Tim:  It was good to see another Racine product key an #MUBB victory too.  Good showing by Jamil; we’ve been waiting for him to break out, and to deliver on the road in a conference game makes it all the more impressive.

Rob:  Agreed.  The spread on players that have been key contributors is big.  That's a good sign, and to have Jamil play strongly bodes well for the team.

Tim:  By the way, the PC game marks three straight games where Vander has logged less than 20 mins.  Mayo's emergence seems to have pushed Vander into a less prominent role.  And again, no Jamail Jones, who still has not shown any signs of establishing himself.

Rob:  Vander wasn't bad, though. He played his role well. Shot efficiently, one turnover, four boards.  And Jamail doesn't seem to be in good trend, although I do hold out hope he'll stick around and contribute as an upperclassman. Older players are so important for good programs*.
*again not supported by analysis

Tim:  Amen.  What is interesting is that Vander is becoming a role player rather than the “load-bearing wall” we presumed he would be based on his high school accolades.  I am concerned that he is disappearing again, just like last season. Blue has not hit double figures in points since NoCol. In his last four BE games he is averaging 3 ppg and his minutes are down.  While he is not a scorer, his struggles against better competition mirror that of his freshman season.

Rob:  He doesn't need to be a load bearing wall. As long as he defends and plays efficiently, there are others that can pick up that slack. At least in comparison to last year, he's still contributing in other ways.

It might be time to pull him from the starting lineup officially, just like Paint Touches was asking.  I wonder if he's got the maturity to deal with that disappointment. Also, I wonder if putting Mayo in would reverse the slow starts this team is prone to suffering.

I really liked the late game lineup of Jae, Jamil, and Gardner all at the same time.

Tim:  Agreed on Vander’s efficiency, his overall game is improved year-to-year … but let’s be honest … players could not care less about a coach saying, “you’re doing great and playing so efficiently for 18 minutes – really, that is better than playing for 30 like you have for your whole life”

Like you said, does he have the maturity to deal with this?  It's hard to get pulled as a starter at any level of competition in any sport.  Truth is, Vander is a role player right now.

One thing that is interesting is how much more assertive Junior has been of late ... he is committed to the “bully drive” and has delivered 5, 7, 9, 6 and 10 assists consecutively, his best stretch since the first month of the season.

Rob:  I think Buzz has been doing a really good job of managing his rotation the last few games. The way he's shuffling the players around has been great. He is tweaking his team on the fly, and it is working.

Honestly, pretty much EVERYONE on the team is role player level but DJO, Jae, and Gardner.  That's how I consider Vander/Mayo and appreciate what Buzz is doing with his rotations.

Agreed on Junior.  I really need to find a way to measure his impact.  The stats aren't so kind to him, but there has to be a better way to show his importance.

Win on Tuesday! 6-2 would be nice

Tim:  Agreed on all points.  Go #mubb!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bracketology: Jan. 21

It's early. Really early. But the way I see it, the best way to have an accurate feel for what might happen come March is to have an idea of what was going on in the months before March. I decided to take a stab at my own version of bracketology. I've used a compilation of RPI, SOS, Pomeroy and Sagarin computer rankings, Record v Top-100, good wins, bad losses, and non-conference SOS. Before analyzing, here's the bracket:

The Big Ten leads the way with 9 bids. The Big East is just behind them with 8. Both the Big 12 and SEC have 5 bids, the ACC and C-USA each have 4, and the A-10, Mountain West, and West Coast have 3 apiece. The only other multi-bid leagues are the Missouri Valley and Pac-12 with 2 each.

The last four byes went to Purdue, Southern Miss, Minnesota, and Florida State. The last four teams into the field were BYU, Cincinnati, Oklahoma, and UCF. The lowest RPI team to make the field was #85 Cincinnati while the lowest KenPom team to make the field was #93 UCF.

The first four teams out were Colorado State, St. Joseph's, Mississippi, and Northern Iowa. The next four out were St. Louis, LSU, Arizona, and Oregon. The highest RPI team snubbed was #39 Northern Iowa while the highest KenPom team snubbed was #16 St. Louis.

From a Marquette perspective, I feel this would be a decent draw, if somewhat predictable. I'd almost be surprised if MU didn't see Indiana by the Round of 32. I contemplated a first-round match-up with Stanford, but felt Creighton should really be up against a BCS-conference team. Kentucky looms large in the Sweet 16, but clearly that one would have Warrior fans confident considering the history of the two programs

I also tried to have some of the typical NCAA humor we see on Selection Sunday outside of the Crean v Marquette rematch. Hope if nothing else, it provides a bit of enjoyment, and I'll be updating this as the season goes on.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Big East NCAA Teams Becoming Clearer

Since my last view of the tournament horserace back at the start of the year, the tournament picture has become clearer for the Big East. UL has been exposed. WVU and Cincy have proven themselves as solid teams. Marquette, UConn, and Georgetown continue to prove they belong. And Syracuse continues to roll.

At this early stage, the league has already sorted itself out into 7 top-"half" teams worthy of tournament consideration (Syracuse, Marquette, Cincy, Georgetown, UConn and West Virginia, and possibly Seton Hall), and nine flawed bottom-"half" teams that probably aren’t and probably can’t get there (Pitt, USF, Lousville, Villanova, St. Johns, Rutgers, DePaul, Providence, and Notre Dame). At this point, I can't see an 8th deserving team.

I’m not looking at the mathematical possibilities—I’m looking at the realistic chances based on the old adage that a leopard doesn’t change its spots. With about 20 games under every team’s belt, we have a pretty good idea how good they are, not just by looking at the W/L record, but where those wins and losses came. Take a team like Louisville for example. If they can’t beat Notre Dame or Providence—and the only conference wins are against DePaul and St. Johns—you probably aren’t going to turn it around when you hit a stretch that includes UConn, Georgetown, Syracuse and Cincinnati.

There have been 28 matchups between a top- and bottom-group team. And the top group has won 24 of those of those games. Those 4 exceptions are Rutgers over UConn, USF and Villanova over SHU, and St. Johns over Cincy). Those are upsets—not a sign of hope for RU, SUF VU or SJU.

Take the case of a team like Villanova. They’re 2-5 in conference. They have an easier schedule coming up, with seven games against other bottom opponents (ND and PC at home, road games at Rutgers, Pitt, UL, USF and St. Johns). But I don't see that a team that lost to USF at home can go 7-0 against that schedule. They’re going to lose a few of those. And they still have to face MU, Cincy, GU and UConn as well.

South Florida has a good-looking 4-2 record, but most of those wins have come to other bottom half teams. They also all but disqualified themselves in non-conference play. Five non-conference losses, including Penn State (currently last in the Big 10), and Auburn (nearly last in the SEC) show that USF is not tournament worthy,

The biggest question mark in the conference remains Seton Hall. Their wins over UConn and WVU suggest they belong in the top. But their losses to USF and Villanova suggest they don’t. I’m putting them in the top because the UConn and WVU wins are (for now) more impressive than USF’s win over Seton Hall. And USF is already out based on their poor non-conference performance.

In basketball, past performance is an indication of future capability, but not a guarantee. It is still possible that team like Notre Dame or Rutgers transform themselves and start playing like a contender. That (as they say) why they play the games.

But don’t be surprised when bids come out if the Big East has just seven bids.

Top "Half"/Likely Tournament Worthy:

Syracuse: Undefeated. Interestingly, they have a 6-0 record against the bottom, and have just on game (MU) against the top.

WVU: Overall 4-2. 1-2 against the top half, 3-0 against the bottom half teams. Bottom half wins were over VU, and Rutgers twice. Plus they have a win vs. Cincy. Both losses were to top half teams (SHU, UConn).

Georgetown: Overall 4-1. 1-2 against the top half (Win over MU, losses to WVU & Cincy. 3-0 against the bottom half teams (DePaul, SJU, Providence).

Cincy: Overall 5-1. 2-0 against the top (Georgetown, UConn). 3-1 versus the bottom with wins over VU, Pitt, ND and a loss to SJU.

Marquette: Overall 4-2. 0-2 against the top (GU, SU), 4-0 against the bottom (VU, SJU, Pitt, U).:

SHU: Overall 4-3. 2-1 against the top (Wins over UConn, WVU, loss to Syracuse). 2-2 against the bottom (Beat DePaul, Providence, lost to USF, Villanova)

UConn: Overall 4-3. 1-2 against the top (Beat WVU, Lost to SHU, Cincy). 3-1 against the bottom (Wins over USF, St. Johns, ND, loss to Rutgers)

Bottom Half/Probably Not Tournament Worthy:

USF*: 4-2 overall. 1-1 against the top (win over SHU, loss to UConn). And 3-1 against the bottom (wins vs. RU, St. Johns and Villanova, loss to ND).

St. Johns*: 2-5 overall. 1-3 against the top (Win against Cincy, losses to MU, GU, UConn). 1-2 against the bottom (Win over PC, losses to USF, UL).

Rutgers*: Overall 3-3. 1-2 against the top (Win over UConn, 2 losses to WVU). 2-1 against the bottom (Wins vs. ND & Pitt, loss to USF).

Notre Dame*: Overall 3-3. 0-2 against the top (UC, UConn), 3-1 against the bottom (victory over Rutgers, losses to Pitt, UL, USF).

DePaul: Overall 1-5. 0-3 against the top (SU, SHU, GU); 1-2 against the bottom (win over Pitt, losses to VU, UL).

Villanova*: Overall 2-5. 1-4 against the top (Beat SHU, lost to MU, WVU, SU, Cincy). 1-1 against the bottom (Beat DePaul, Lost to USF).

Providence: Overall 1-5. 0-4 against the top (GU, SUx2, GU). 1-1 against the bottom (UL was the win, St. Johns was the loss)

Louisville: 2-4 overall. 0-2 against the top (MU, GU), and 2-2 against the bottom (Wins versus SJU, DePaul, losses to ND, PC).

Pitt: No wins – 0-6 overall. 0-3 against the top-half (Cincy, MU & SU), 0-3 versus the bottom-half (ND, DePaul, Rutgers).

*Team with five or more non-conference losses.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

All-Star Weekend

I just had my first all star experience this past weekend in Saitama, Japan for the BJ League. I also got to participate in the 3 point contest which was a lot of fun. Saitama Super Arena was packed with 14,000 people to watch the best players in the league perform. Saitama is just outside of Tokyo, which made it a perfect host to the festivities.

Some of the notable American players people in the U.S. may recognize are: Lynn Washington and Jeff Newton(Indiana alumni), John "Helicopter"Humphrey (AND1), Lance Allred (Weber St./Cleveland Cavs), Justin Burrell (St. John's), Ray Nixon (Wisconsin), and Kevin Palmer (Texas A&M). They also included several of the league's Japanese stars, which makes for a fun atmosphere for the fans.

Surprisingly, this was my first ever official 3 point contest since high school. They only invited two americans to participate, all the rest being japanese who are known for their spot shooting. I won the first round, and went head to head in the final against the only 6-time all-star in the leagues history in 5'4" Japanese phenom, Cohey Aoki. It came down to my last money ball that rimmed in and out, and I lost by one! It made for an exciting start to the weekend's events, and I definitely want to come back next year to avenge the loss.

John "Helicopter" Humphrey won the dunk contest, adding another title to what I'm sure is a long list of dunk titles. The game was an offensive affair, just like an NBA all-star game, the West outscoring the East as both teams scored in triple digits. The entire weekend was a lot of fun to get to know guys from other teams and represent our respective clubs. It's amazing to me how big the game of basketball is growing in the world today. I never would have thought the game was this big in Asia, but it is certainly one of the biggest rising sports all around the world. The event had a big-time atmosphere and I felt like I was back in the Bradley Center!

This game has taken me to so many places around the world, and this weekend's all-star events in Japan will be a memory I will never forget!

Daniel Fitzgerald 08'

Defensive Table: MU 3rd best defense with Otule, 69th best in next eight games, and now 10th best in last four games

I'm sure I've lost most of your interest by now, but I just had to go back and look at the game-by-game defensive performance to figure out when MU's defensive rating started to improve again. With Chris Otule MU gave up an average of 0.82 points per trip, which even after adjusting for some weak offenses gives them a defensive rating of 0.84 (the points per trip against an average offense). That means that Marquette's defense played as well as the:

- 3rd best defense in the country while Otule was playing,
- the 69th best defense in the country the first 8 games he was out (0.98 per trip, and even after adjusting for tough offenses faced, a 0.94 adjusted rating), and finally,
- the 10th best defense in the country the last 4 games (0.94, but adjusted to 0.87 due to offenses faced).

Four games doesn't a season make, but it appears it took MU a while to figure out the defensive adjustments they'd have to make with Otule no longer having their back, but four straight stellar performances on defense indicates they may have now solved it.

OpponentPts AllowPossessRaw DefAdj for Opp
Mount St. Mary's37720.510.59
Norfolk St.68840.810.84
Norfolk St.57640.890.92
Ave. with Otule   0.84
Wisconsin Green Bay61770.790.84
Northern Colorado72740.970.93
Louisiana St.67651.031.03
Wisconsin Milwaukee50650.770.78
1st 8 games w/o   0.94
St. John's64700.910.91
Last 4 games   0.87

CORRECTION FROM POST BELOW: Tonight Pomeroy calculated Louisville with 72 trips, rather than the 74 I had last night, so I've made that correction.

Pomeroy now has MU as the 28th best offense and the 27th best defense in the country, making MU one of 11 teams in the Top 30 in both offense and defense along with; Syracuse (4 offense, 10 defense), Michigan State (7, 9), Kansas (8, 3), Kentucky (10,6), Baylor (11, 16), Ohio State (12, 1), UNC (2, 12), Wichita State (21, 17), Gtown (23, 15) and St. Louis (27, 20).

Monday, January 16, 2012

MU puts together top 5 DEFENSIVE effort, allowing only 63 points on 74 trips to beat Louisville

I was bit stunned before writing the previous post to see that Marquette had actually played better defense than offense this year (by a hair) based on the ultimate measure - how many points per trip down the court do you allow? (see www.kenpom.com).

Well, the come from behind win against Louisville was even better defense, as MU allowed only 63 points on 74 trips down the court to - IRONICALLY - win by a reversal of the two numbers, 74-63. Only four defenses in the country are allowing fewer points per trip than the defensive performance MU allowed today:

1Ohio St0.793
4Flo State0.848
5MU (today only)0.851

Admittedly Louisville is an average offense without injured Kyle Kuric, but the sharp-shooter is not dominant like he was last year, as he still only gets the ball about 15% of their possessions and has dropped from a Top 10 to barely a Top 200 offensive player.

When looking at how MU shut down the Cardinals offense, they once against used great pressure to end 23.4% of Louisville's trips in turnovers, but perhaps more impressively turned it over without fouling. Louisville's free throw rate of only 15.9% (only 10 free throw attempts vs. 63 field goal attempts) indicate an incredible job of stripping the ball and forcing other turnovers without fouling.

Lville OMU DefToday

Once again that effort was needed to stop Louisville's pretty strong offensive rebounding, which would have dominated except for Jae Crowder's 8 defensive rebounds. Along with Crowder's 6 steals and two treys, this keeps him on pace to easly become only the second player in the past decade to hit 160 defensive rebounds and 40 steals while hitting 40 treys in TWO seasons. (thanks for pointing this out College Hoops Journal.)

Carmelo Anthony would have done if for a second year if he hadn't gone NBA, but even if I include him that leaves Jae in pretty elite company of only three players to accomplish the feat assuming he grabs just 56 more defensive rebounds this year:

The Elite ThreeDef. RebStealsTreys
Carmelo Anthony 20032485556
Terrence Williams 20082084860
Terrence Williams 20092668668
Jae Crowder 20111684842
Jae Crowder 2012 (19 games)1044236

In fact, Lazar Hayward is one of only 10 players to do it just once along with Kyle Singler, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Kevin Durant, Wes Johnson, Ryan Gomes, Maarty Leunen and Anthony, Williams and Crowder.

Crowder is also one of the top shot-blockers among all forwards, as Gorgui Dieng learned first hand when Crowder basically did a volleyball spike on his dunk attempt. But I believe the other exciting defensive development today was seeing Jamil Wilson step up defensively, because if he plays like that then MU really does have a potential dominant defensive line-up in Derrick Wilson, Vander Blue, Crowder, Wilson and a much improved DJO.

This line-up can suffocate many many opponents, with the only question being whether or not they can contain great offensive rebounding teams. But Louisville was a very good - though not great - offensive rebounding team, and today was reason for guarded optimism.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

1st for Buzz – MU defense now ranked higher than offense, and team is playing well except against big offensive rebounders

For the first time since Buzz Williams took over, Marquette’s defense is better than its offense. As of now MU has the 31st best offense in the country (1.112 points per trip) and the 28th best defense (0.906 points allowed per trip), and while this may not last, it’s never even been close under Buzz:

YearOffensive RankDefensive Rank
20099th 51st

For all the complaining about the aggressive style, MUs ability to be the 19th best team at turning opponent’s over (25.0% of opponents’ possessions end in a turnover), has offset the fact that MU is one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the country (258th of 345 for allowing 34.7% offensive rebounding by opponents).

While every MU starter steals the ball at least 2% of opponents’ trips (Crowder 3.9%, GARDNER 3.2%, Blue 3.1%, Junior/D. Wilson 2.4%/2.6% and DJO 2.0%), once the opponents’ shot is up Crowder is the only strong rebounder –grabbing 19.6% of misses to rank among www.kenpom.com national leaders.

Davante has to be one of the only guys in the country who is more likely to grab a rebound when his team misses than when the opponent misses, and his game sealing rebound against Pitt made him the 15th best offensive rebounder in the country at 16.1% of all MU misses grabbed (to 15.6% of opponents’ misses).

This Achilles Heel showed itself again Saturday when Marquette barely beat a Pitt team that, while having a terrible year, is the best offensive rebounding team in the country.

Since Chris Otule was injured, GAME SCORES calculate that Marquette has played like a ranked team 6 times and like an unranked team 5 times. As this table shows, in almost every case the poor performances have been against great offensive rebounding teams and the good performances have been against poor offensive rebounding teams:

Poor PerformancesOff Reb Rnk
Louisiana St.39
Good PerformancesOff Reb Rnk
Northern Colorado139
St. John's105
Wisconsin Green Bay150
Wisconsin Milwaukee170

What does this mean for the rest of the season? While Pomeroy’s predicted scores have proven very accurate, it appears likely that MU will not do as well as predicted when up against a strong offensive rebounding team, and vice versa.

Therefore I have laid out the rest of the season with the score Pomeroy currently predicts, followed by the opponents’ rank on the offensive glass. Marquette really needs to go at least 5-2 in the next seven games including a road game against an excellent offensive rebounding team in Villanova, because the five games after that are all against very good offensive rebounding teams that could send MU into a tail spin late.

OpponentsPomeroyOff Reb%Gut on game
LouisvilleW, 73-6559Slight favorite
at ProvidenceW, 77-7042Slight favorite
South FloridaW, 70-5899Double digit favorite
at VillanovaW, 76-7235Toss-up
Seton HallW, 73-66114Solid favorite
at Notre DameW, 72-69266Solid favorite
at DePaulW, 89-77190Solid favorite
CincinnatiW, 73-6543Slight favorite
at ConnecticutL, 72-719Big underdog
RutgersW, 76-6314Solid favorite
at West VirginiaL, 74-7119Big underdog
at CincinnatiW, 70-6943Slight underdog
GeorgetownW, 70-67112Solid favorite

(So Louisville is the 59th best offensive rebounding team in the country, etc., down to Georgetown, who is only the 112th best offensive rebounding team in the country.)
This is not to say that every team can dominate MU on the offensive boards. In fact, the past couple of years MU has struggled to stop opponents’ offensive rebounds early in the season but then been right in the middle of the pack at defensive rebounding in conference play.

After Pitt grabbed 6 of their first 7 misses to start the game for an Offensive Rebounding percentage of 86%, MU adjusted and allowed them to get only 5 of their last 27 misses. However, it appears that when facing a strong offensive rebounding team, MU has to make adjustments to stop them at some level that hurt their overall performance.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pomeroy correctly predicted our record preseason - and now has MU on pace for 2nd place

Preseason Big East Player of the Year Ashton Gibbs leads Pitt into the Bradley Center at 1 p.m. CST as the Panthers seek an upset for their FIRST Big East win. Like Dwight Buycks last year, Gibbs has been forced to play out of position at point guard and the Panthers have the worst offense (93.2 points per 100 trips) and worst shooting percentages on both 2-pointers (42.3%) and 3-pointers (22.7%) of any team in Big East play so far.

Marquette is exactly on pace this year - having lost exactly as many games (4) as Pomeroy predicted in the preseaon prediction. A loss to Pitt would be a major blow, while a win could be the second in a 10-game stretch of being the favorites during which an 8-2 mark would keep MU on pace for 2nd place in the Big East.

Focusing on Pomeroy’s predicted conference finish gives by far the clearest picture of where all of the teams stand today. Marquette is 2-2 in conference play – big deal – we’ve played Georgetown and Syracuse to single digits on the road and if we keep playing like this we finish 12-6.

How accurate is Pomeroy? I saved his predictions before the season started, and pulled them back up tonight when a colleague said he really didn’t like the fact that Pomeroy uses a “cumulative” predictor. Here is what he published BEFORE the season started:

Pomeroy PreseasonPrediction
Mount St. Mary's94%
Norfolk St.96%
Wisconsin Green Bay91%
Northern Colorado93%
Louisiana St.73%
Wisconsin Milwaukee89%
St. John's85%
Total 11-4 (CORRECT)1072%

Adding up the percentages gives the best prediction of what a team’s record will be, and in this case they added up to 10.7 wins and 4.3 losses – rounding to the actual record of 11-4 (prior to the season there was no prediction for the two unknown opponents in tournament play, so Marquette is 13-4 overall with those two games not on this list).

Conference predictions even more accurate now; USF win over Seton Hall big
Of course, predictions get even more accurate as more and more games are played, so it is much more important that Pomeroy predicts Marquette will be one of four teams to go 12-6 in conference play to finish in a 2nd place tie behind 16-2 Syracuse.

Cincinnati and Notre Dame are currently tied in 2nd in the conference at 3-1 apiece, but they are projected to finish 10-8 and 9-9 respectively, so we should be more worried about Seton Hall, Georgetown and West Virginia right now, who have much easier schedules and better results to date and are likely to be battling MU for a top spot.

If MU is upset no more than two times in the 10-game stretch that started with the win over St. John's, then MU could pass Cincinnati while the Bearcats are playing at UConn, West Virginia and Rutgers and at home against Syracuse after today’s much easier game against Villanova. Meanwhile Notre Dame gets UConn twice, Syracuse and road games at Seton Hall and Rutgers for their next five. If Cincy and Notre Dame win most of their five in that tough stretch then the prediction will adjust, but right now MU is in better position than either team.

The fact is that right now MU is on course to finish ahead of traditional powers UConn, Louisville and of course Pitt. Things can change, but this is the much better snapshot of the “standings” than just looking at current records:

TeamWLTo stay on pace
Seton Hall126win at Nova Wed
Georgetown1265 wins in next 6
West Virginia126win 2 of 3 before Cuse
Marquette1267 wins in next 9
Cincinnati108after Nova, 1 of next 4
Connecticut108win 2 or 3 of 4 before at Gtown
Notre Dame992 upsets in next 7 games
South Florida810 
St. John's612 

So of the four evenly matched teams, the key will be to see if any can beat one of the other three on the road to shoot ahead. Marquette came the closest so far with the narrow loss at Georgetown, while the other two home teams dominated. Now Marquette needs to hold home court against Seton Hall and Georgetown, and try to steal a road upset at West Virginia.

The potential miniconference tie-breakerat Seton Hall 67, West Virginia 48
at Georgetown 73, Marquette 70
at West Virginia 74, Georgetown 62
PredictedJan. 31: at Marquette 73, Seton Hall 66
Feb 21: at Seton Hall 63, Georgetown 62
Feb. 24: at West Virginia 74, Marquette 71
March 3: at Marquette 70, Georgetown 67

Why is Pomeroy’s predictor so much more accurate than a game-by-game approach?
The idea of going by actual game-by-game predicted wins rather than cumulative percentages could be less accurate than flipping a coin to predict overall records.

Here is why. Let's say that a team has an pretty clear edge in it's next six games, a 2-to-1 chance of winning in each of those games. This is the same odds of rolling a 3, 4, 5 or 6 on a single die (a win) instead of rolling a 1 or 2 (a loss).

The suggestion that predictions should be the result of simply assuming wins for every team that is favored over the course of a season would indicated that the team should be predicted to go 6-0 over those games because they are clearly better than all 6 opponents.

There is only an 8% chance that a team goes 6-0 over those games, and a 92% chance that they play "below expectations" if that is the bar. While there is a 66% chance of winning the first game, there is only a 44% chance of winning the first two, a 29% of winning the first 3, etc.

So if someone bets such a team will go 6-0 against a guy who flips a coin and bets they will go 3-3, then the coin-flipper is more likely to prove the better predictor.

But Pomeroy's cumultive total is much more likely to be the most accurate than either going game-by-game or flipping a coin - correctly predicting that a team in this situation will have the greatest chance of going 4-2, though certainly there is also a good chance of going either 5-1 or 3-3 - just not 6-0.

The reason it is NOT immediately obvious that going with game-by-game is such a terrible system is that most teams have games they are favored in and games they are not in any stretch, so it just doesn't hit you that this is what is happening.

Also, I'd refer to my piece earlier in the week where I documented that every year Marquette - and every other team - play a game well below their ability once every six games and play a game well above their ability once every six games, and during the hypothetical 6-game stretch it is very likely they will play one terrible game, and it is very unlikely they will win that game, so game-by-game is terribly flawed and Pomeroy is exactly right.

It's only in cases like Murray State, where their last 11 games are all against teams that are ranked #200 or lower and they have between an 81% and 97% chance of winning, that a game-by-game approach has any chance of being more accurate than the cumulative prediction model Pomeroy uses. There the game-by-game prediction of a 28-0 record is not quite as likely as Pomeroy's prediction of a 27-1 mark, but there you have a fighting chance.

Stop setting unrealistic expectations! 7-2 in next 9 would be strong
This isn't just an academic exercise - this is where so many fans get unfairly down on the team. For example, if you look at Marquette's next 9 games you can say, "Marquette should win EACH of these games." True, we have the edge in all nine matchups. But many fans - and a game-by-game predictor model - misunderstand this to think it means that "Marquette should win these next nine straight to be 23-4."

No they shouldn't. It is VERY unlikely Marquette wins all 9, so at this point the expections are so detached from reality that if the team goes 7-2 during the stretch fans view it as a disappointing stretch because they were upset twice and didn't beat anyone they weren't supposed to beat. 9-0 becomes PAR in fans minds, and even if the team goes undefeated - like the early stretch the Three Amigos had to get to #8 one year, and people don't realize the accomplishment. in fact, MU should lose at least two of those games, and possibly three, and has only a 7% chance of winning all 9, so fans should be happy with 7 of 9 wins, very happy with 8, and unbelievably ecstatic if we win 9 more in a row. It should only be if the team goes 6-3 or worse that fans should be disappointed in the stretch.

So expect to have Marquette upset twice in the next 9 games – and only panic once we’ve been upset for a third time. A 7-2 keeps Marquette on pace for a potential 2nd place finish.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gardner-ing Tips

After Davante Gardner's dominant performance against St. John's, I began to wonder if it was an outlier, or the start of a very nice trend. Granted, his career highs in points and rebounds both came along with a career high in minutes, but it seemed to me like had THAT Davante shown up against LSU, Georgetown, and Syracuse, Marquette might have a much better record.

One thing that stood out was St. John's lack of size and depth. That God's Gift Achiuwa is averaging 36.6 minutes per game in St. John's last 10 indicates they don't have any depth in the middle. I decided to analyze Gardner's numbers using Pomeroy's Effective Height ranking. Marquette has played 10 games against top-100 EFR teams and 6 games against sub-100 EFR teams First, the raw data:


Because of the disparate minutes Gardner played early on and recently, it only seemed fair to compare his numbers on a per-40 minutes basis rather than a per game basis. Here's a the per-40 breakdown:


Looking at this, the stat that jumped out was free throw attempts. Against bigger teams, Gardner is averaging 4.5 fewer FTAs per 40 minutes. His free throw percentage stays constant, so the attempts also explain much of why he averages more points against smaller teams. And while his field goal percentage and rebounds are down a bit, 57.3% and 10.0/40 are still great numbers. In everything else, he actually seems to perform a bit better overall against big opposition.

The 4 top-100 teams that interested me most were Ole Miss, LSU, Georgetown, and Syracuse. Against Ole Miss, Gardner got to the line 9 times on 6 fouls in 40 minutes. Had he played 40 minutes, that projects out to 25.7 free throws in that one game alone. But against LSU, Georgetown, and Syracuse, the three games Marquette lost in which Gardner played enough minutes to have an impact, he shot only 6 free throws in 83 minutes, an average of just 2.9 FTA per 40 minutes. For Marquette to have success against the big, talented teams, they need to have Gardner getting to the line and putting the opposition in foul trouble.

Recently, Marquette radio announcer Steve "The Homer" True mentioned that Gardner's goal is to always get the "and one". Looking at these numbers, it's easy to see why -- when he is getting to the line, he makes Marquette a much better team. When he isn't, they are far more likely to struggle.

Marquette's next 3 games are all against sub-100 EHR teams, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Gardner continue to put up big numbers. But it will be important for him to be aggressive and draw contact after this stretch, because games against big teams like Villanova, Connecticut, West Virginia, Seton Hall, and Georgetown could be the ones that separate Marquette from being top-four or middle-of-the-pack in the Big East. If Gardner can get to the line early and often, Marquette stands a good chance of having success against the types of teams that usually give them trouble. But if he's unable to be effectively aggressive down low, it's possible this team will be carrying the Team Bubble Watch moniker once again come March.